10-28-2014: MilSciFi.com interviews Deborah Walker, contributor to the
anthology Dark Expanse: Surviving The Collapse, author of the short story
They Cannot Scare Me With Their Empty Places.
MilSciFi: Welcome. Please tell us a little
something about your story.
Walker: Following the departure of the galactic overlords the Zyxlar,
the Silicate desert world of Charmed Rock descends into chaos. When the Thoknar
Protectorate steps in, Lat (always one to obey the Elders' commands) is the
first to join this paramilitary crime organization. Lat is the kind of solider
who gets through by shouting agreement to his sergeant's commands. But he's
uneasy about collecting protection money from the impoverished citizens of Horde City. Being a kind-hearted type of guy, he
begins to use his own money instead. Alas, as one reviewer so aptly put it, Lat
is not an academic thinker, and he soon gets caught and receives a punishment
exile killing tracking and killing the dangerous scorpials in the bad lands. But
in the empty spaces, Lat has time to do some thinking. When a sandstorm drives him
into the presence of an old enemy, Lat finds that the world is a more
complicated place than he'd realized.
MilSciFi: Since this was a shared universe project,
just how much freedom did you have in your story concept and/or character
Walker: The Dark Expanse is a galaxy, so and there's a lot of room
to tell many stories. As I was involved at the beginning of the project, I also
had the opportunity to do the initial world building. I worked on the Saurian
culture and world building. Nancy Fulda did some excellent work on the Chitters.
There are certain racial traits that are prevalent, but just like Terrans, the
races that inhabit the Dark Expanse don't all think alike, and there's often a
good story to be told about the oddball.
MilSciFi: What inspired you to write this story?
Walker: A story comes together as I noodle about with it, different
elements coalesce. I chanced across Robert Frost's poem 'Desert Places', the last verse
They cannot scare me
with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars
where no human race is.
I have it in me so much
To scare myself with my
own desert places.
Which gave me the title and is also
mentioned in the story. I'd also been researching Favelas in Brazil at that time, and wanted to write a
story about impoverished people. I also wanted to use an unreliable narrator
main character. In Lat's case, someone who knew he was 'dumb' and didn't always
understand what was going on in the world. But there's more than one type of
intelligence in the galaxy.
Also I wanted giant, mirror-shelled, scorpion-inspired,
MilSciFi: Does science and technology play an
important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it secondary
to the story telling and characterization?
Walker: In this story science is secondary to the characterization
and cultural world building. But I've published around a hundred fifty original
short stories, so it depends. My stories published in the science journal Nature will explore a central scientific
idea, but all my stories are about people, whether they happen to human or not.
MilSciFi: Do you have plans to expand upon, or
write other works based on this short story?
Walker: Well, I hadn't until you just mentioned it. Now I want to.
There's more to Lat's story, I'm sure.
MilSciFi: Most authors we encounter write
novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a
Walker: They're apples and pears, difficult to compare, despite
their seeming similarity. I do write both. I like them both for different
MilSciFi: Is military science fiction the only
thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking for?
Walker: I write all types of science fiction fantasy and horror, at any
and all lengths. Also poetry. I love anything
speculative, always have done. I sometimes slip a bit of crime into my stories,
and occasionally a literary story slips thought, that's a mistake, honest
MilSciFi: Do you have any other projects in the
Walker: Yes! 'As Good As Bad Can Get' a space opera, set in the Dark
Expanse will be published early 2015.
MilSciFi: Thank you, for your time.